Supreme Court

Administrative Law

Rule or policy unilaterally imposed must be consistent with collective agreement

Irving Pulp & Paper, which operated paper mill, unilaterally adopted workplace policy which included mandatory and random alcohol testing for employees holding safety sensitive positions. Computer selected names of employees randomly. Union filed policy grievance challenging “without cause” aspect of policy. Majority of arbitration board concluded mill operation, while constituting dangerous work environment, did not fall within ultra-dangerous category. Majority, considering absence of evidence relating to alcohol use in workplace, found that Irving Pulp & Paper failed to establish need for policy by demonstrating mill operations posed sufficient risk of harm that outweighed employees’ right to privacy. Application judge allowed application for judicial review, finding it unreasonable to require evidence of pre-existing alcohol problem once majority concluded mill represented dangerous workplace. Union’s appeal dismissed but further appeal allowed. Employers in unionized workplace not permitted to “promulgate unreasonable rules and then punish employees who infringe them”. Employers may discharge or discipline employees only for just cause or reasonable cause. Any rule or policy unilaterally imposed by employer must be consistent with collective agreement and be reasonable.

Irving Pulp & Paper Ltd. v. CEP, Local 30 (Jun. 14, 2013, S.C.C., McLachlin C.J.C., LeBel J., Fish J., Abella J., Rothstein J., Cromwell J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., and Wagner J., File No. 34473) Decision at 216 A.C.W.S. (3d) 2 was reversed.  228 A.C.W.S. (3d) 5.

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